By Benton McTaggart
Director, Career Success Services
Meritize

User experience (UX) designers’ roles are becoming very lucrative. This is largely due to the shortage in creative talent who are well-versed in the latest industry tools, technologies and strategies. In fact, according to a Robert Half Company salary guide, UX designers can expect to earn a median salary of $93,000 in 2018.

This is terrific news for job seekers in this industry. However, while the pool of applicants in this industry is limited, it is still a very competitive space – especially when you are just starting out. You want to ensure that you have a job search game plan that creates consistent job interviews as well as demonstrates why you are the right fit for the role.

Here is a three-step game plan to set your UX job search in motion.

  1. Create and communicate a strong personal brand.

Create a strong reputation as a UX designer to stand out among your peers. This includes being clear on what you offer and how your approach to user experience design is different than your peers.

While what you deliver – designing how a product or website feels – is similar to what other UX designers offer, your approach to doing this is what differentiates you. Perhaps you use a process-oriented approach or maybe you use a more creative approach.

Once you have defined your personal brand, develop a portfolio that narrates your story and work. There are dozens of sites that allow you to develop compelling portfolios including: Wix, Squarespace, Tumblr, Dribbble and many others. Instead of just showing visuals in your portfolio, also include case studies that detail your unique approach to designs.

Use blogs, videos and other content-driven approaches to demonstrate your expertise as a UX designer.

  1. Build relationships – one substantive conversation at a time.

Relationships open doors for careers. These relationships begin by having one conversation at a time. The goal is to get in front of a hiring manager, and each conversation you have takes you closer to a hiring manager.

It might be tough to be taken seriously when you are just starting out as a UX designer. Therefore, focus your efforts on building advocates – people who are willing to vouch for you and the skills you have to offer – to the right decision maker.

Unclear where to begin? Start with who you already know. This could be friends, colleagues or family members who are either UX designers or happen to work closely with other UX designers. When you have these conversations – share why you are interested in being a UX designer and what skillsets you are looking to leverage. You could end each conversation by asking who else your contact knows and thinks you should talk to. If they do have suggestions for people you can speak with, ask them to make an introduction. Doing this often and consistently will not only help you expand your network but also your odds of landing a role fairly quickly.

  1. Use an interval approach to create job opportunities.

It is vital to have a very focused approach to create some consistency in your job search. We recommend using the interval approach – essentially a clear timeline to conduct an intense and thorough job search. A reasonable timeline for the interval approach is between four and nine weeks. In this time period, you are using three key strategies to create job opportunities:

  • Apply to jobs with someone already on the inside to vouch for you;
  • Conduct multiple conversations to build relationships;
  • Prepare and submit opportunity letters – a compelling pitch identifying the hiring manager’s biggest pain or challenge and if hired, how you would solve it. These letters get you noticed by hiring managers.

Using the interval approach increases your chances of success in the job search. It also helps protect you from the burnout and stress associated with non-stop job searching. After each interval, if you have not yet landed a job, take breaks to course correct – learn and grow from both what worked and didn’t work. Come back with a stronger plan in place for your next round of searching.

Landing a job as a UX designer is rewarding – both financially and emotionally. However, it is a rapidly growing space with strong competition. Therefore, job seekers should ensure that their personal brands are well defined and clearly communicated while job searching. Ensure that you have a plan in place to build relationships and create actual job opportunities.